E-mu ESI-4000 Turbo Multiple Output Configuration Guide

Even though E-mu’s operation manual for the ESI series does technically state how multiple outputs can be used, it’s not clearly explained and is a bit ambiguous on some points. The goal of this primer is to bring the use of multiple discrete outputs into focus, especially within the context of using Multi Mode to assign individual patches/instruments to their own separate outputs.

While most of these concepts apply to the base model, this guide is specifically meant for the ESI-4000 with the Turbo expansion card, as this ESI 4K Turbo has highest number of outputs.

CONNECTING PHYSICAL OUTPUTS

The layout of the output jacks isn’t entirely clear at first glance for three reasons:

1) E-mu has mixed mono and stereo outputs together in one machine (Turbo model only).

2) The Turbo expansion depends upon using TRS “insert” style (y-splitter) cables in almost all scenarios.

3) The cabling for Submix 1 (the only submix output on non-upgraded models) is treated differently than Submix 2 and 3.

In the manual, E-mu implies that Submix 1 will be used with an “insert” cable and that a signal will be returned to the ESI. This is not necessary nor desirable when using a multiple output configuration. Instead, a standard mono 1/4″ instrument cable should be connected to both (left/right) Submix 1 outputs in exactly the same way as the Main Outputs are connected — ignore the concept of an FX return path and treat the Submix L/R jacks as traditional output only jacks instead of a send/return or output/input.

Conversely, Sub 2 and 3 each carry a stereo signal and do require the use of a y-splitter cable for each submix. This will convert each stereo output to a left/right (or dual mono) output, which can then be connected in the same manner as the Main Outputs and Submix 1.

Here is a breakdown of the outputs:

Main Output L (mono) \ stereo
Main Output R (mono) / pair

Sub 1 L (mono) \ stereo [plus a left mono input which should be ignored in this case] Sub 1 R (mono) / pair [plus a right mono input which should be ignored in this case]

Sub 2 L/R (stereo pair)

Sub 3 L/R (stereo pair)

So, while these are generally treated as 4 stereo busses, 8 separate mono signals can be sent out of the ESI-4000 Turbo if configured correctly.

SPDIF and FX can also be utilized but are not separate busses and cannot be used to expand the number of discrete outputs. In the case of a multiple output setup, SPDIF or FX would be used as an alternative to the analog Main Output bus. This is an advanced configuration which is explained later in the SPDIF/FX section.

SETTINGS CONFIGURATION

MASTER/SPECIAL/OUTPUT FORMAT —
Main Output Format: analog

MASTER/MIDI/MULTIMODE ENABLE —
Boot in Multi: yes
Use Bank State: no

MASTER/MIDI/MIDI MIX —
Change the bottom lines from ‘zzzz zzzz zzzz zzzz’ to ‘M123 zzzz zzzz zzzz’ (for 4 stereo busses) or ‘MM11 2233 zzzz zzzz’ (for 8 mono outputs).

This is assuming MIDI channels 1-4 for stereo output, or MIDI channels 1-8 for mono output. Different MIDI channels and stereo/mono combinations can be configured, but–for the sake of simplicity–this guide will assume either all stereo or mono instruments and MIDI channels 1-4 or 1-8.

Ignore the volume/panning settings in the MIDI MIX menu as the external sequencer will automatically override any panning and volume settings.

PATCH/INSTRUMENT ASSIGNMENT

First, load a bank with all the needed patches (LOAD, select bank, ENTER). After the bank is loaded, make sure the ESI is in Multi Mode. Next, use the jog wheel to select a patch for MIDI Channel 1. Cursor Right to go to the next MIDI channel and again use the jog wheel to select a patch for MIDI Channel 2. Repeat the process for channels 3 and 4 (stereo) or 3-8 (mono).

SEQUENCER SETUP

Create either 4 MIDI tracks (one per stereo bus) or 8 MIDI tracks (one per mono output). Assign each MIDI track its own unique channel between 1-4 (stereo) and 1-8 (mono), the channel of which should correspond to whatever patch was assigned to each channel in the ESI’s Multi Mode configuration.

For example, if a violin patch was assigned to MIDI Channel 1 in Multi Mode then the sequencer MIDI track which contains the notes for the violin should be assigned to MIDI channel 1.

For mono operation, change the panning to be hard left for every MIDI track with an odd-numbered MIDI channel, and hard right for every even-numbered MIDI channel. While this seemingly can be set in the MIDI MIX menu, the sequencer will automatically override any panning and volume settings.

In other words, each MIDI track should alternate panning hard left/right, such as channel 1 fully left and channel 2 fully right. This will cause the instrument assigned to MIDI channel 1 to appear at Main L and channel 2 to appear at Main R, and channel 3 to appear at Sub1 L and channel 4 to appear at Sub1 R, and so on.

Note: The panning for MIDI is needed for proper instrument separation from the ESI outputs, however, once the signal has entered a mixer or audio interface then the audio can be panned anywhere within the stereo field. Do not confuse controlling the ESI’s panning via MIDI with later controlling the pan position of the actual audio.

The only reason to use stereo mode operation on the ESI is when a patch has actual stereo information (different audio on the left/right channels). Using stereo bussing on instruments which are simply panned mono is a waste of otherwise usable outputs. In other words, don’t use MIDI panning and stereo bussing simply to place a mono instrument somewhere in the stereo field!

Also, when using stereo instruments with stereo bussing then MIDI panning should not be moved from the center position, unless intentionally adjusting the stereo balance.

SPDIF/FX

As the Submix busses and Main Outputs are always dry (lacking effects), the effects processor in the ESI-4000 Turbo cannot be utilized unless either the SPDIF or FX output connectors are used in lieu of Main Output L/R. Also, the SPDIF is a digital output and may be preferable to the analog main outputs in certain situations and setups, regardless of effects usage.

If SPDIF is used, the ESI will have 1 wet/dry digital bus and 3 dry analog busses. Likewise, if FX is used then the ESI will have 1 wet/dry analog bus and 3 dry analog busses. SPDIF, of course, requires an audio interface or mixer with digital input, and the FX jack requires a y-splitter of the same type as Sub 2 and Sub 3, so the cabling requirements are slightly different.

Ordinarily, using the submix outputs will separate each instrument appropriately by removing the corresponding signals from the main outputs, so everything works as expected when using Main + Sub 1,2 and 3 in combination. However, the problem with using SPDIF/FX is that those outputs are not, by default, a mirror of only the main output, but instead the entire effects processor, such as that all three submixes will bleed into the SPDIF/FX outputs. As having mixed signals defeats the purpose of having multiple using multiple outputs, this needs to be adjusted.

To configure SPDIF/FX to be a mirror of the main output bus instead of the entire effects processor output:

MASTER/EFFECTS/EFFECTS SETUP —
Effects: Bypassed
Multimode Control: master settings

Alternately, SPDIF/FX can be used as a wet version of the main output bus. Either Effects A, Effects B, or A & B can be applied to the main output signal and routed to SPDIF/FX.

To configure SPDIF/FX as a wet main output bus:

MASTER/EFFECTS/EFFECTS SETUP —
Effects: Enabled
Multimode Control: master settings

MASTER/EFFECTS/MASTER EFFECT A —
(cursor right twice)
Sends:
Main = 0-100% (set to taste)
Sub1 = 0%
Sub2 = 0%
Sub3 = 0%

MASTER/EFFECTS/MASTER EFFECT B —
(cursor right twice)
Sends:
Main = 0-100% (set to taste)
Sub1 = 0%
Sub2 = 0%
Sub3 = 0%

The important concept when using the SPDIF/FX outputs is that the effects processor either needs to be disabled entirely or effectively disabled for Sub1, 2, and 3 by having all submix FX sends set to 0%. Also, since this type of multiple output setup make it impossible to use (in any meaningful way) the ESI’s internal effects on the submix busses, any patches needing internal effects should be assigned to the main output exclusively.

FINAL NOTES

While Multi Mode can be automatically enabled at boot, and all other settings are persistent, the MIDI MIX settings have to be configured each time the ESI boots.

Also, just as the volume/panning settings in MIDI MIX are pointless to set in the ESI since they are ultimately controlled via MIDI, so too are the volume and panning settings in Multi Mode. Volume and panning in Multi Mode and MIDI MIX are tied together and will be overruled by external MIDI sequencing, so should only be used as a point of reference and not manually changed, except as an exercise in frustration.

If this behavior is irksome, it is possible to disable sequencer control of volume and panning through MASTER/MIDI/MIDI VOLUME & PAN.

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